A year ago, few Bruins fans had even heard of Reilly Smith. He’d just finished his first full season with the Dallas Stars and, after scoring 66 goals in three seasons at Miami of Ohio, he’d yet to find that scoring touch at the NHL level, notching just three goals in 37 games in the lockout-shortened season. So when Smith’s name was included in the trade package for Tyler Seguin, it didn’t register for many. Loui Eriksson was the centerpiece, while Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow seemed like throw-ins. But Smith came into Bruins training camp, earned a job and proceeded to have an excellent sophomore campaign. He notched 20-31-51 totals, good for sixth on a team that finished third in the NHL in regular-season goals. Smith came into camp with few outside expectations, but he knows that won’t be the case this September. “It’s a little different, but you try to push yourself even more and I think that’s one thing going into next year, the bar is set so much higher now,” the 23-year-old Smith said Friday. “And I’m going to have to come back next season and prove it and excel my game far more than even my previous expectations were.” He’ll also return to camp a wealthier young man. Smith is a restricted free agent this summer and he’ll surely get a decent pay raise from the $900,000 he got this season on his entry level deal. “I honestly haven’t started thinking about that at all,” Smith said of his upcoming contract negotiation. “I’ve been just trying to just take everything in.” And there was a lot to absorb. He started the season on the third line, but quickly moved up to play with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second line. He also saw regular time on the second power-play unit. “They gave me a great opportunity here. Being able to play with some of the guys I did this year was great for me personally,” said Smith, who hopes to add a little muscle in the offseason. “I learned so much playing with guys like Bergeron and (Zdeno Chara) and having guys like (Jarome) Iginla in the locker room. There’s so much experience there. I was picking up things every day. It was a joy to be able to play with those guys.” Smith got off to a great start and maintained it through the first half of the year. But in the final 30 games, he hit a dry spell. He scored just two goals in the last 30 games of the season and some were wondering if he was a flash in the pan. But coach Claude Julien stuck with him and kept him in a prime spot on the Bergeron-Marchand line. “It says a lot about the confidence and the opportunity they gave me all year long. It’s been great and a joy to be able to play with some of these guys,” Smith said. “And to be able to have that confidence from the coaches and your teammates, that they stick with you when things aren’t going great was great. I couldn’t be happier with how things played out. It was a shorter playoff experience than we expected, but it was still a good learning experience.” While Smith was as disappointed as anyone with the early end to the season, he was one of the best Bruins performers in the playoffs. He had four goals, including two game-winners, and was one of the B’s more active forwards against Detroit and Montreal.
Reilly Smith proves his worth
Boston Herald | May 18